Thursday, June 25, 2009


Swimming session one is over.
Ace is still in level 5. She has to improve her flip turns. Diving went well. Check out the pictures!

Deuce graduated to level 4!! Yay Deuce!
Three will remain in level 2. She has to improve her front crawl and treading water.
Jack O'Hearts completed his "Beginning Little Swimmer" program
Four and I had a lovely time in Mom and Me swim!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday - Lunch Challenge

Today was a quickie - spaghetti and sauce, with Parmesan cheese over the top. Pretty light on the fruit and vegetables, but I'll fill in later with some fruit for a snack, and salads for dinner.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Homeschooling on the cheap

This post began as a response to a lady who is trying to figure out if homeschooling is going to be expensive, but I decided that it would make a good post to anyone trying to make that decision.

I would first: decide with your son what interests he has that you can work on designing your lesson plans around. Second: check out something like WorldBook or other website to see what subjects 7th graders typically cover.

Next: Free resources. Two very good books are "Homeschooling on a Shoelace" and "Homeschool your Child for Free." You can probably get them at your library.

Online there are scads of free resources. If you have the internet, the world is your oyster. If you are interested in more "classic" type educational products, I highly recommend you look at the resources at An Old Fashioned Education. There's everything there, and its all free. Online you can also get complete math curriculums for grades through college, classic literature, plus an amazing source of online classes from HippoCampus and MIT.

Okay, now cheap resources - not the same as free, but cheap is good, too. If you want to study literature, go to your local St. Vincent, GoodWill, Salvation Army or whatever thrift shop. Peruse the used books. Around here, I am able to find lots of excellent books that cost me all of a quarter a piece. On my last look, I found Frankenstein, To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Tom Sawyer, and Of Mice and Men. Some looked as if they'd never been opened. Occasionally, they've been someone's for a class, once-upon-a-time, but it doesn't really matter unless they're really written in. I also look for any other things that I can use. Sometimes I find math workbooks, games, puzzlebooks, and other resources.

Another really cheap (and underused) source is the antique shops. I have a row of classics I picked up for a song at an antique shop, and also readers and schoolbooks from the turn of the century. They work well for poetry memorization, etc.

Of course any homeschooler will be drawn to the library book sales as well.

Other cheap online sources can be found online. CurrClick regularly has sales and freebies, and there are a lot of middle school and upper level coursed from which to choose.

I think that the most important thing is to keep an open mind about what your child wants to learn, and how you want to teach it. Homeschool does not need to be just like traditional school, and you don't need to purchase the latest whistles and bells to give your child a really excellent education. It just needs a little creativity.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Make it from Scratch Carnival

The Make it from Scratch Carnival is being hosted over at Gotta Little Space to Fill. Go check it out! NOW!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Really Green Bag.

Dog Food Tote Tutorial

We have two dogs, and they eat a LOT of dog food. These bags are really strong, after all, they are designed to hold 50 pounds of dog food. Sadly, they are not marked for recycling, so our recycling co. won't take them. I figured, as long as this bag was destined for the landfill, why not see if I could do a little recycling of my own?

Here is my Dog Food Tote Tutorial. (Oooh, alliteration!)

Step 1. Begin with an empty dog food bag. Be sure you wipe out the inside pretty well, or your bag will smell like kibble.

Step 2: Cut the bag down to a nice, manageable size. You can decide where the best size is. Also, cut off the binding from the bottom of the bag.

Step 3: After you cut off the bottom, sew a double seam along the bottom of the bag. After some trial and error I discovered that the best needle for the task is a vinyl/leather needle. The stuff doesn't seem really tough, but I guess the plastic is enough to make it not work too well with other types. Also, I apologize for the blurriness of this photo, Deuce was my photographer, and the light was not optimal in my sewing area for a good shot. I think she did pretty well, considering. Anyway, because I wanted the bottom of the bag to be squared, after I sewed the bottom seam, I also sewed perpendicularly across the bottom seam on each edge to make square bottom corners. No photo of that, sorry.

Step 4: Now you have a basic bag shape, so turn it inside out (or right side in, if you prefer) so t hat the seams are on the inside, anyway. I didn't want my tote to scream "DOG FOOD!" so I put the label and stuff on the inside of the bag. If you have a really
pretty bag that you are re-using, like some of the bird-seed bags have lovely designs on them, or if you really like the funky look of a dog-food bag, by all means, flip it around before you start to sew, so your design is on the outside. Your bag, your choice. Fold down the top edge, in any event.

Step 5. Now we come to the (sorta) tricky part, the handles. Cut a couple of strips from the leftover dog food bag. I eyeballed them, but I think 4 or 5 inches wide is probably a good guess.

Fold one side in and finger press it, then the other side, then fold the whole thing in half. Note: An iron on this is really NOT a good idea on this sort of plastic. It gets all shrinky and weird. Please learn from my mistakes! Fortunately, I didn't ruin my iron.

Finally, sew along the edges to close up the strap.

Step 6: Now take the folded up strap portion and cut it into straps
that are a nice size. I found that the right size was half of the strap that I had just made. If you need it longer, you might need to sew another piece of strap. To attach the strap, you need to slip the ends of the strap under the folded down edge of the bag, then sew around the top of the bag. That will attach the straps, and finish the edge of the bag. When the top is stitched down, flip the straps up, and sew across the top of the strap, so they go the right way. You can also reinforce this connection with a little square of sewing. Your choice, although I've never had one go on me before, on the other totes I've made, They do look good, though.
Tada! Finished tote!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Science lessons

Science sort of stalled out at our house after finishing the Periodic Table of Elements. For weeks we didn't do any. Sure, we caught frogs, toads and snakes in the backyard, made trips to the pet store to gaze at the different sorts of fish, birds, and small animals they have there, planted and tended a garden, observed the weather, and did the odd cooking "experiment," but nothing really planned out.

So I've been writing a unit that I was going to do with the kids in the fall, but we started it already. In the unit, the student biologist (because it's a biology unit) travels through the 5 kingdoms of life, gathering facts to earn the right to carry the keys to each kingdom.

Today we did our first "real" science. We made a culture medium out of Jello and Slim-Fast. It's red. I hope it doesn't get yucky, we need a bunch of them for our planned unit. Anyway, to make culture medium from Jello and Slim-Fast, you need:

1 package Jello (any flavor)
1 can Slim Fast (any flavor)
paper cups or petri dishes
plastic wrap and rubber bands or lids to the petri dishes
bowl, spoon, measuring cups, saucepan

Make sure you wash everything out really well with hot soapy water, to make sure it is really clean. Otherwise you won't be able to trust your results.

Mix up the Jello as directed, except replace 1/2 cup of the cold water with 1/2 cup of Slim-Fast. Drink the rest of the Slim-Fast, and grimace, because it's gross.

Allow the Jello mixture to cool for 15 minutes or so, stirring every 2 minutes to keep the Slim-Fast from settling. Pour the mixture into paper cups or petri dishes and cover with the plastic wrap and rubber band, or lid to petri dish.

Put them in the fridge until they are set, you can use them now when you need them.

I got my petri dishes from Home Science Tools.

They aren't too expensive, and the company is really nice to deal with.